Kenneth G. Coombs interview with Tales of Cape Cod, July 31, 1978.
Mr. Coombs was born in Cambridge in 1914. His father and paternal grandparents grew up in Mashpee. Kenneth spent most of his childhood and young adulthood on Nantucket. His father and uncle became successful fishermen. Mr. Coombs attended the Academy Hill school which had about 21 students. He recalls the names of several of his teachers. At eight years old, he began working as a caddy at the local golf course. He made 50 cents for 18 holes and would usually take home $2.00 per day. After graduating from high school in 1932, the depths of the Depression, his only option for college was Bridgewater State Teachers College. During those college years his father was out of work, his mother would suddenly die and upon graduation there were no teaching jobs available. While waiting for teaching jobs, he worked as a waiter and laborer. In 1937 he interviewed with Mr. Peebles of Mashpee schools and accepted a teaching position. The enrollment was 100 in 1937. Soon after that the town was incorporated and he joined the teachers agency. He names several teachers in Mashpee. He describes the people and life in Mashpee at that time. He tells of Isaak Coombs being the first selectman and also recalls that early history of the area and that Hiakamus Coombs was one of the first converts to Christianity. His grandfather Oakes Coombs sailed all over the world.
During his college years Mr. Coombs worked summers as a butler for the Buckner family and as a waiter at the Sankaty Head Golf Club. He remembers serving James Cagney at the golf club. While working for the famous lawyer Emery P. Buckner, he met the boxer Gene Tunney and Chief Justice Felix Frankfurter who at the time was Dean of Harvard Law School. He also recalls the time the Nantucket Harbor froze in 1934
Mr. Coombs recalls his grandfather’s use of medicines to combat boils when out on whaling trips. Pitch pine blend was used on top of the boil to make it heal and disappear. Mr. Coombs also recalls having sulphur and molasses as a tonic for sore throats and colds.
The Tales of Cape Cod Oral History Collection is housed at the William Brewster Nickerson Archives in the Wilkens Library at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable, Massachusetts. For more information about the collection, please contact the Nickerson Archives, http://www.nickersonarchives.org/.